RSF’s latest report on Bangladesh contains misinformation: Arafat

Publish: 6:24 PM, February 19, 2024 | Update: 6:24 PM, February 19, 2024

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammad Ali Arafat today said the latest report of global Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Bangladesh was “unacceptable” saying it contained misinformation and lacked factual accuracy.

“The latest RSF report on Bangladesh’s press freedom was based on incorrect, half-true, insufficient and misleading information that undermined government initiatives to foster a free and independent press, media and journalism,” he told a press conference at his ministry’s conference room in Bangladesh Secretariat here.

The junior minister said he came to the conclusion on the updated RSF World Press Freedom Index after a month-long study and scrutiny and sent a rejoinder to the Paris-based watchdog from his ministry on Sunday.

The RSF, called Reporters Sans Frontier in French, commented in its report that the two leading state broadcasters, Bangladesh Television (BTV) and Bangladesh Betar (radio), function as government propaganda outlets. It alleged that six journalists were under detention.

The watchdog alleged that the Digital Security Act (DSA) was often used to keep journalists and bloggers in prison, in “appalling conditions”.

The index placed Bangladesh on 163rd position out of 180 countries while the report was still posted on its website.

Countering the allegations made in the RSF report, Arafat said, “The RFS’s evaluation ignoring the real scenario of press freedom and independent journalism in Bangladesh is an unacceptable, biased and deviated from factual accuracy.”

He said state broadcasters BTV and Betar focus on education, the empowerment of rural people, development-oriented news and areas less covered by private channels.

“Therefore, the statement of RSF on its website describing BTV and Betar as the propaganda machine of the government is baseless,” Arafat added.

He said his thorough investigation and updated information suggested RSF claim over the six journalists illogical and baseless.

The state minister said the RSF’s concern about the legal context appeared obsolete as the government already scrapped DSA 2018 and instead enacted the Cyber Security Act (CSA) 2023 having provisions to summon journalists instead of arresting them.
He said Bangladesh’s independent judiciary was committed to combat any harassment of journalists through proper investigation and due judicial process.

Arafat said, on the contrary, the government was pledge-bound for journalists’ and media workers welfare, pointing out that it awarded them the 9th wage board with enhanced salary to ensure their standard livelihood while a process was underway to form the 10th wage board.

The state minister urged the RSF to review its report on Bangladesh and its ranking by considering the government efforts based on accurate information and data.

Asked what might have prompted RSF to depict a negative landscape involving Bangladesh media, Arafat said propaganda was carried out over Bangladesh and its democracy, human rights and freedom of expression and the press which often influenced the reports like the RSF one.

“We will try to perform our duties to ensure free flow of reliable information against the misinformation and disinformation. Our task is to fight the falsehood with truth,” he added.